When it comes to deciding on whether to begin investing in a home gym, there are a few things you should keep in mind before you start buying anything expensive or excessive.
Keep in mind that home gyms aren’t for everyone. There are types of people that need to get out of the house to find the motivation to get up and work out regularly. The most common mistake people make when debating on investing in a home gym is that they have big dreams of getting fit quick and spend far too much money on equipment they never end up using.
To avoid making these common mistakes and rise above the rest, start your home gym project off small. Only build onto it when you begin to make actual use of it and need more equipment.
Clear Out the Perfect Space
Let’s be honest; it’s hard to get a workout in at home when you’re surrounded by screaming children, plagued by a sink full of dishes and dinner has yet to be started. When it comes time to find a space for your home gym, it’s important to make the space your own. Make it a safe space and a refuge from hectic at-home distractions. Sometimes it can be as simple as pushing the coffee table to the side of the living room, laying down a yoga mat and you're good to go.
A set of dumbbells should be part of every home gym. Either the three weights you think you'll use most often such as a 5, 10 and 15lbs set or, better yet, one of those good quality adjustable sets. Adjustable dumbbells that add plates with the click of a switch, from 2 to 50lbs, are a great foundation for a home gym. They're compact and provide a virtually unlimited palette of exercise options.
Old-time iron pumpers were all about muscle isolation exercises for maximum bulk and, unfortunately, minimal flexibility. Modern trainers know better, which is why, next to dumbbells, a good quality stability ball tops the list of prescribed home gym accessories. With a stability ball, you can do abdominal crunches, squats, hamstring curls, body bridges—a ton of different exercises. They're inexpensive, easy to store and they can double as a bench when working with dumbbells. A word of advice: Don't buy the see-through balls you can find at the superstore. They could end up popping on you, leading to serious injuries. The good quality ones they sell at fitness outlets have been tested several times for your body weight.
Resistance bands are deceptively low-tech and extremely versatile. In their simplest form, they're nothing more than a roll of elasticized plastic banding or tubing you can cut to length and use in place of dumbbells for any number of exercises where light to moderate resistance is required. More advanced systems come with handles and door attachments. Strap it to a door, table or bench, and it's a cheaper version of a universal machine. You can do lateral pull-downs, standing chest presses, squats and shoulder-related exercises.
For tougher, more advanced workouts, a number of so-called suspension training systems have been developed. Systems like TRX or the Human Trainer involve straps you can attach to ceiling trusses or doors, and your body weight becomes the resistance. They're light, compact, don't cost more than a couple of hundred dollars, and you can do 50 to 100 exercises with them.
Don’t Skip Cardio
Move about a bit to keep your heart healthy. Skipping rope is great exercise. Not only is it a fantastic cardio workout, but that up-and-down motion tightens the muscles around the organs, strengthening your core. Are your ceilings too low to accommodate skipping? No problem: There are now "ropeless" skipping ropes on the market — weighted handles, basically — that mimic the benefits of skipping without scraping or scuffing interiors.
Treadmills & Larger Equipment
What if you really want one of those impressive contraptions: the elliptical trainers, spin cycles, or Bowflex-type machines? If you love running, but not during the winter, by all means, get yourself a home treadmill. Know what you're getting into first, though. Some treadmills are like running on a slab of concrete; others are like running through a fluffy field. If you want the fluffy field type, be prepared to pay top dollar. A top-of-the-line Woodway treadmill costs anywhere between $8,000 and $10,000, whereas a more modest Precor treadmill, which is also good, will run at about $2,000.
Get Buff, Not Broke
Again, all this equipment can cost a fortune. In addition to using websites like Kijiji to find barely used exercise equipment at steep discounts, you can also contact equipment manufacturers or retailers. Try looking for gyms that are going out of business that may be selling their equipment. Some gyms lease from manufacturers, so there's a lot of gym-grade refurbished equipment out there that's selling for about the same price as you can get home-quality machines new.
Maybe dumbbells, balls and bands are good enough. After all, the poor man's gym works as well as the rich man's gym if you're putting in the same work.